THE Ndokwa ethnic group, one of the major oil and gas blocks in the Delta State axis of Nigeria’s Niger Delta, have again cried out against the operations of oil mining corporations in their communities. They alleged that the ”unwholesome environmental standard” of the Italian oil major, Agip, was killing their people, and stalling good crop yields.
They are also claiming that there is a widespread of strange diseases hitherto unknown to them, which they strongly believe, are linked to oil pollution. In all these, they are seeing Agip as an oil company that is bent on fueling violent communal crises in the area.
But officials of the oil corporation in a swift reaction in Port Harcourt, theRivers State capital, said Agip is one of the few good and responsible corporate citizens in the oil region that painstakingly pursues peace with its host communities.
Ndokwa delegates at a regional conference on the extractive industry with focus on Agip, organised by the country’s foremost environmental rights advocacy organisation, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), opened up on the Italian oil giant, insisting that there is an urgent need for the company to stop grooming anger in Ndokwaland.
Spokesman for the Ndokwa delegates and Co-ordinator of Organised Ndokwa Effort (ONE), Rodney Odili-Obi, told the conference that their area which has three local government areas: Ndokwa-West, Ndokwa-East and Ukwuani, is a major oil and gas producing belt.
The area, according to them, harbours over two billion barrels of proven crude oil, and 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Going by the extant seismic, geological and drilling data, Ndokwa is the home of the largest non-associated gas reserves in West Africa, with 80 million standard cubic feet of gas daily.
Harping on their accusation of the oil major, they said, ”it is needless for Agip to push Ndokwa people too hard thereby enhancing violent relations. If their action is not checked now, sooner or later the boomerang may result in avoidable infrastructural damages of its facilities and expensive reconstruction of the plant as debris of bitter lessons”.
Ndokwa leaders said they have continued to prevail on their unsettled youths from resorting to violent demonstrations, protests and armed militia which they unfortunately, tend to see as a viable option. Adding, they said, ”Ndokwa has remained peaceful despite the continued provocative environmental abuses and the negative impact arising from oil and gas mining operations in our communities and the non-step down of power from the Kwale-Okpai Independent Power Project (IPP) to us
”Let those who hate deprivations in their own communities understand the injustice of deprivation in our land. There are also many terrible problems of waste discharge, oil spills and gas flares”.
Continuing, they said, ”radiative substances from drilling wastes are causing unexplained deaths in our communities. Wastes like shales and sand stone are brought to surface and dumped in our ponds, lakes and farmlands. During flood season, these are spread far and wide. Also, toxic chemicals used in drilling wells are part of the problems.
”Gas flaring releases toxic components and poisonous chemicals to our nearby communities. Cases of asthma is now rampant in our communities, and infertility is rising too, thus threatening our population. Chronic bronchitis and blood related diseases not known to our people are the order of the day. Gas flaring also causes acid rain. Our people collect this acid water for drinking.
”Massive oil spills in Ndokwa are caused by aged corroded pipelines. Effects include contamination of ground water, death of fish population, loss of cassava and yam plantations, destruction of vegetation, cause of acid soil and low crop yield, making our people poorer”. ENDS